He was given short shrift entering the season, primarily due to his diminutive stature. He went on to win Seattle's starting job, but nationally played second fiddle to Robert Griffin III and third banana to Andrew Luck in this season of high-profile rookie quarterbacks. But Russell Wilson is the one who has advanced to the playoffs' next round while the other two have begun their offseason vacations.
Only a special player could out-RG3 in RG3's house, flip the script and force the Redskins to swallow what their face of the franchise dished out all season. But Griffin couldn't keep up with Wilson, not with a bum right knee entering the game and a banged-up passing hand suffered in the first quarter.
Unencumbered by a bulky brace, aching joints and bruised extremities, Wilson demonstrated why his name has crept into Rookie of the Year conversations, flummoxing Washington in a 24-14 victory in a NFC wild-card game Sunday at FedEx Field.
Wilson didn't produce eye-popping statistics, but he provided steady leadership and a calm demeanor as the Seahawks fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. His passing and running on three consecutive drives to end the first half resulted in 13 points and a one-point game at intermission.
"His demeanor never changes," Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said outside the Seahawks' locker room. "He's like [Tom] Brady and [Peyton] Manning, their face never changes, even today at 14-0. That's what I look for in a quarterback. Are his eyes wide? Is he rattled? But he's so confident in his preparation, he never wavers."
Neither does his team's belief in him. Unlike Griffin and Luck, Wilson didn't come in as a ballyhooed franchise savior. More than a few teammates, let alone NFL pundits, wondered if the 5-foot-11, 206-pounder could play at a high level. But he won them over as the season wore on, to the point where no one was surprised at Sunday's comeback.
Wilson even got to show off his downfield skills, helping to spring Marshawn Lynch on two long runs, including the 27-yarder for Seattle's go-ahead touchdown with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter.
"I guess it's from watching the offensive line block all the time," Wilson said. "Marshawn always tells me, 'I got your back, I got your back.' I just try to help him out once in a while."
Wilson finished with 187 yards passing and 67 yards rushing, with a huge hand in the Seahawks' scoring drives.
He accounted for all but 5 of the 66 yards when Seattle got on the board with a 32-yard field goal. He knocked a fumble away from a Redskins defender on Seattle's next possession, allowing Lynch to scoop the ball in stride and rumble 20 yards. Wilson did the rest from there, capping the 73-yard drive with 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Robinson.
With 3:36 left in the first half, Wilson directed a 10-play, 63-yard march for a short field goal as time expired.
"He's just very poised," said tight end Anthony McCoy. It doesn't matter if we're down by 21 or if we're up by 21. He's been doing that all year so it's no surprise that he's [succeeding] in big games like this."
The zone read that RG3 and Alfred Morris have run to perfection was duplicated perfectly by Wilson and Lynch.
Wilson is playing better than most anyone expected entering the season. Now, no one expects anything less.
"It was a slow process," McCoy said. "We had to figure out what kind of offense we were going to run. They figured out this whole option attack, and it's been going great."
The same was true of the Redskins before their season ended Sunday. Fans didn't get to see a healthy, effective RG3 in the final game this year at FedEx Field. But they were able to see a reasonable facsimile lead the other team to victory.
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Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’ 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @Its_Ball_Good or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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